Erik MH:

blog entry

In which I reflect on my journey

date2024-03-20 14:45 utc

I’ve never before tried working as a “digital nomad,” and it’s been nearly a decade since I’ve traveled in lands where I didn’t really know the language. Travel has changed astonishingly during my lifetime: most of the change is massive improvement: Google Maps, ubiquitous cellular data, Tripadvisor, Uber, Airbnb, translation apps, Street View,... any one of these tools and services would itself ease and simplify travel — but taken altogether, travel can be much more comfortable and sure. And given all the various bodily complications that now make travel more difficult for me, these new developments are really a game-changer for me.

Google Maps: one of many use­ful tools

The one thing that’s really worse about travel? Airports. Airplanes themselves are a bit of a toss-up: the seats, though often with less room, tend to be more comfortable now; smoking is no longer allowed; in-flight entertainment is largely a more pleasant experience. Today, though, you’ll often be sitting next to somewhat wearing sweats and going shoeless (or even sockless) — a far cry from decades past, where you’d dress as if going out to a nice dinner.

But the airports? Hell. See my forthcoming post on customs, passport control, & security, if you dare.



I wasn’t prepared for the G.I. challenges that I underwent. Probably five days out of seven I was distracted mentally and physically by various internal problems, and these took time and attention to deal with and certainly put dampers and restrictions on what I was able to do.


I was also unprepared for the level of noise. In summers at home, we leave in a bucolic pastureland, with few sounds other than the wind in the trees and the songbirds — and the occasional passing vehicle. I had intellectually prepared myself for the shift to life-in-the-big-city, which I’ve experienced at various points in my life. But the road I lived on suffers near-gridlock conditions for several hours each day, and at the best of times Limeños drive with one hand resting on their horns.

Out my window

(Often, they honk briefly just to tell other motorists/pedestrians that they’re entering an intersection, or not planning to stop at the crosswalk; sometimes, two or three drivers will among themselves put together an impromptu “shave and a haircut” medley. But in bad traffic, there is all of that plus the buses’ air horns plus all the people simply leaning on their horns in frustration.)

In my case, I was on the second floor, directly overlooking all this mess — so the noise was loud and constant.


Also, every single day was several degrees warmer than average; in January and February, that meant about 86ºF at 90% humidity with an exceedingly bright sun. I vastly preferred this to two more months of -15ºF and slate-gray skies, but it was debilitating at times. In an ideally situated apartment (south-facing, with trees, and good ventilation), I would have been fine with windows and fans, but given my west-facing condo with no shade and reflected street heat and windows facing only the one direction, air conditioning was essential.

“Darkest” Peru: UV14 and 56 days 3 – 5º hot­ter than average


My lack of Spanish often slowed me down and sometimes meant that I didn’t form as close a connection with someone as I might have. There is enough English spoken, and the translation apps are good enough, and everyone is flexible enough linguistically, that my lack of Spanish was never a problem, though, and I’m taking steps to improve my Spanish over the upcoming months....


Despite everything I’ve outlined above, there were many, many advantages — or, more accurately, one huge advantage and many other benefits.

mental clarity

The most obvious benefit was an improvement in my mental faculties and energy levels. Despite the heat and the noise — but probably because of the light and the bustle and the linguistic challenges — the remnants of my long-COVID brain fog lifted — even though I took myself off the low-dose Naltrexone. This meant that, though I wasn’t able to work often (see above), the little work I did went more quickly and was of better quality.

Feel­ing alive and alert! (Kar­en & me)

But also, I just felt more normal and more alive mentally than I have in quite some time — possibly since cancer (2017), and that’s got to be good!

There are the intangible benefits, of course, of getting to know other cultures and points of view, to seeing dance one hasn’t seen before, to taking moments to stare out at the vast ocean and breathe the salty air, to identifying utterly unfamiliar birds, to meeting and communicating with new people.


Between my innate shyness, my mild/moderate prosopagnosia (face-blindness), my lack of Spanish, and previous experiences traveling in the U.K., I had not expected to make any friends during my eight-week stay.

Despite that expectation, I was determined to make connections with people, and I followed the examples of my dad and of my friends Timothy, Marc, and Andy and actively showed interest in people’s lives and asked questions about their work. I had consistently attempted this in England (Leeds, York, Oxford) and Scotland (Glasgow) in my visits over the last decade (two of them nearly matching this trip in length), as well as during my various recent trips to Milwaukee, but essentially utterly failed ever to get beyond a single interesting conversation or familiar greetings.

By stark contrast, I would count all of these following people as friends. Only one or two are bordering on the beginnings of “deep” friendships, but I would be utterly delighted, say, to get a spontaneous text from any of them saying they’re in New England, would I like to get together (or show them around).

Friends! Claudia, Alicia, Melissa, Joshue, Mau, Fran­cisco, Mon­ica, Naomi, Will, …


In approximate order of appearance (in my life, not in the photos):

  • Alicia (Sociedad Tolkien Peruana)
  • Francisco (Sociedad Tolkien Peruana)
  • Joshue (barista)
  • Naiomi (traveller)
  • Will (traveller)
  • Mau (actress & author)
  • Nicole (waitress, architecture student)
  • Henry (concierge)
  • Monica (waitress)
  • Miguel (barber)
  • Martín (concierge)

To which I would add a half-dozen others who would no doubt have made the list had I stayed on for another couple of weeks: Blanca, Claudia, Frescia, Diego, Melissa, and two or three others whose names I never got but from whom I was getting good “connection” vibes.

If you don’t know me, that probably doesn’t look like a very impressive list. Trust me: it is unprecedented. I assume this disparity is due to Limeñons (or perhaps Peruvians or South Americans or those living in Hispanic cultures — but I don’t want to assume that my observations hold true to such larger groups) being more willing to make connections with strangers, or embracing the philosophy of strangers being simply friends who they haven’t met yet — since I don’t feel like I approached this trip differently in this respect from others.

Regardless, the trip was a wonderful experience, and I’m determined to “do it again” next year, including various tweaks that I hope will result in vastly improved productivity.